The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has announced it intends to formally assess the impacts of issuing annual catch limits for the subsistence harvest of bowhead whales.
It plans to prepare an environmental impact statement, which would recommend one of four anticipated alternatives, ranging from no catch limit to an annual strike limit of 67 bowhead whales with a 6-year quota of 336 landed whales. Any changes would go into effect in 2019.
Subsistence hunts for whales are regulated under the authority of the International Whaling Commission, which sets an overall subsistence catch limit for the stock based on the request of member countries on behalf of native communities. The United States and Russia file joint requests for Alaska and Russian Native subsistence hunts — in Alaska, cooperating with the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission.
The previous environmental impact statement issued by the NMFS, an agency under NOAA, in 2013, concluded that the overall effects of human activities associated with subsistence whaling results in only minor impacts on the western Arctic bowhead stock.
The NMFS is soliciting public comment until September 14th.
Image at top: a bowhead whale catch in Gambell, April 2017. Photo: Karen Trop, KNOM (2017).